Sex Worker Study Draws Criticism
Freakonomics author and University of Chicago Economics Professor Steven Levitt and sociology professor Sudhir Venkatesh presented a draft of their paper, “An Empirical Analysis of Street-Level Prostitution” last week at an economics conference in New Orleans. The paper examines the business of sex work on the streets of Chicago, a draft of which is available on the Web with the disclaimer “extremely preliminary and incomplete.”
Despite the disclaimer, some of the findings are already coming under fire from Chicago service organizations working closely with women trapped in the cycle of prostitution, pointing out the report is flawed because it reduces a complex issue to a business transaction and doesn’t look at the social situation these women are in. Of the findings listed, some are of little surprise: Fridays are busy, Mondays are slow; there are seasons where there is higher demand, which draws more women to the streets; women who work with a pimp make more, despite having to surrender 25% of their earnings.
One surprise finding: 3% of all sexual transactions performed were freebies offered to Chicago police officers to avoid arrest. Bow-Cick-a-Bow-Wow. Chicago police spokesmen have not responded to requests for comment. The report also attaches numbers to the profession, with full-time prostitutes making on average less than $20,000/year.
A final version of the paper is expected in April.
Hooker stance photo by dcvision2006.